The process of reviewing applications and choosing our Floret Workshop Scholarship winners is one of the high points of the year for the entire team. While reading all of the heartfelt stories that our in from all corners of the globe, we learn so much about the hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations of our flower tribe. There are always common themes including the intense joy that flowers provide when shared, the memories they spark when smelled, and the connections they create with the people who receive them. Inevitably, more than a few essays bring us to tears.
Providing the opportunity to share what I’ve learned over the last decade as a flower farmer has been one of the greatest and most unexpected joys on this flower-filled journey. And gifting this opportunity to those who may not otherwise be able to participate in a workshop continues to be extremely important to me.
I’m thrilled to be offering a total of five scholarships for our 2018 Floret Online Workshop. We are accepting applications now through Monday October 30th. In this past Monday’s scholarship announcement on the blog, I asked the three winners of last year’s scholarships to share a little bit about their experience. You can read their essays and learn more about applying here.
In preparation for this year’s scholarship announcement, the team and I thought it would be fun to reconnect with scholarship recipients from past years to see what they’re up to, learn how their operations have changed, and to find out how the Floret Scholarship may have impacted their farms, their careers or their lives.
To kick it off, Flora Brown of Frinklepod Farm in Arundel, Maine who received a scholarship to attend one of our 2016 Flower Farming Intensives is here with us. Named for a character in a favorite children’s book (Uno’s Garden, by Graeme Base) Frinklepod Farm is the four acre diversified farm where Flora and her family grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers.
Mirroring a theme of the book, Flora’s flower farm focuses on ecological biodiversity, conservation, and the need to maintain a healthy balance between humans and nature. Her compassion also extends to the less fortunate and every year they dedicate a portion of their fields to growing crops to donate to local food pantries. I asked Flora for an update on what has changed for her over the past two seasons. Here is what she shared:
When I applied for the Floret scholarship in early 2015, I truly felt like my life was at a turning point. I had been running the business end of our veg farm for three years, had two young kids, and was growing flowers “on the side” – i.e. in-between everything else, i.e. at the bottom of the priority list. But the simultaneous, synergistic realizations that I was totally in love with flowers AND that I was ready to apply 100% of myself to something that was all mine is what drew me to learning about Floret and to the dream of winning the scholarship.
The Floret workshop experience not only confirmed these two epiphanies and provided tons of factual information, but most of all exposed me to other amazingly hardworking, driven, talented and creative women – Erin, her team, and all of the other participants – which boosted my self-confidence and reinforced my hunch that I was indeed on the right path. Thanks to this workshop and Erin’s approach to flowers and business, I am proud to consider myself not just a farmer-florist but also an entrepreneur and a creative – identities which just a few years ago I would never have had the confidence to embrace. Flowers totally excite me and I am also excited by how to share them tangibly with others, how to educate and inspire others to enjoy flowers, and how to make an honest living in doing so.
This season my husband and I saw the manifestation of several years of really hard work; thanks to some grants, crowdfunding, and loans, we built a new building on our farm which is home to a floral studio, education/workshop space, propagation greenhouse, and commercial kitchen. This space allows me to take on bigger projects/wedding work and has allowed me to experiment with offering a flower bar/ basic floral design workshop to the public. I have found that I especially love providing the space and resources for people of all different backgrounds and experience levels to “play” with flowers, so I am starting to plan what this piece can look like next season (to complement our existing design work, bouquet CSA, and retail flowers).
I also want to mention that this is the second season that I have had a seasonal apprentice who works on all things flowers with me and this has been such a huge and wonderful thing for me. At first I worried that I was too much of an amateur to mentor someone else, but being in the mentor role has made me so much better at my work (research shows that you learn best by teaching) and keeps me motivated to get through long days and inspired to keep pushing myself and learning more. Plus, there is that awesome feeling of helping nurture along another person who is about to go off and do more awesome work in the world, whether it is flower-related or not. There is so much to be said for learning with others and feeling connected to a something that is so much greater than yourself, your piece of land, your business…. I truly believe this and thank Floret for being a constant reminder of the power of the flower community!
Next up, I wanted to check in with Chloe Roy of Flowermama in Quebec Canada. Chloe received one of the very first Floret workshop scholarships ever awarded, way back in 2014. I appreciated her boldness, candor and can-do attitude, both in her application and at the workshop. When we reconnected with her, four full growing seasons later, this is what she had to share:
I love beginners boldness! It has always been my biggest fuel on this flower farm project. So going more than 3000 miles to attend the very first Floret workshop was not a problem. And I am glad I made it! 4 years ago, on that spring day I left my very first flower farm freshly started after another cold winter to fly to Floret.
I had invested all I had, time and (not much) money to make the flower farm come to life. I dug trenches, dissasembled and re-assembled greenhouses, designed and installed the irrigation system just to name a few. Alone. With 3 kids!
I had searched hours and hours on the web for all the info I could get on growing flowers without chemicals and in an intensive/no-tractor way. I had never really made a bouquet before attending the workshop! It was a dream do get my hands on magnificent flowers to practice on many kind of arrangements.
Immediately after returning home from the workshop I was so much more confident in myself about ways of doing things on both sides of flower farming; in the field and the design studio. It has been in the many little details that I’ve notice Floret’s tips popping out in my work all season. I still have A LOT to learn but through this experience gave me many great skills to rock this crazy project of being a flower farmer out!
Four years later, (still got the kids!) the flower farm is running better and better! The production gets stronger every year and all of it makes me deeply happy. The farm welcomes long term wwoofers (interns) during the season which helps a lot. This year we got some new greenhouses, made arrangements for beautiful weddings, expanded our distribution to ethical supermarkets and had a good number of supporters either with the subscriptions or at the farmers market!
One of the best pieces of advice I was given by the Floret team is to try to put as much love as you can in everything you do at and around the farm. In life in general too. Keep on doing that. It’s so important. Floret is a beautiful headlight, a reference for many of us and I am happy to get blown away and inspired from them. Day after day.
Watching past Floret Scholarship recipients like Flora and Chloe take what they learned through the Floret Workshop and go back home to transform their flower-based businesses and emerge as new leaders in the seasonal flower movement has been an absolute thrill.
If you are ready to jump-start your flower-focused business with a little help from Floret, I strongly encourage you to apply for a Floret Scholarship. Learn more and apply–but don’t delay, applications will only be accepted through October 30th.
We can’t wait to hear from you!